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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Acquiring English

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? What is often a daunting enough process for adults, can become a mentally-draining maze for school-aged adoptees arriving in America.

“Children learn quickly.”

“Send them to school and they’ll pick it up from the other kids.”

“At their age, it’s not that hard.”

Au contraire. It IS hard, it DOES take effort, and it may require YEARS to be able to fully utilize English in an academic sense, as opposed to simple social settings.

Petya had a rough road when he arrived from Russia with no English. He should have been in second grade by that point. Hooked on Phonics was too lofty a goal for him; he was hooked and hung-up by the alphabet.

No matter how much pain and suffering is involved, a child’s attempts to learn a new language can result in hours of family fun.

“Buckle gun,” comes the voice from the back of the car. Pasha arrived at the age of a sixth grader, the scholastic skills of a third grader, and the English abilities of a babe in arms.

“Buckle gun?” I take the bait, not knowing where this linguistic guessing game may take me.

Our family does not possess weapons nor firearms, to my knowledge. The seat belts are already buckled. We don’t journey far on the information highway today. It’s a short hop, skip, and a jump to the “bubble gum” exit.

Many are the missteps and misunderstandings down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of English proficiency.

“I am smart. You are smart. He ____ smart,” I coach.

“He are smart!” he replies happily.

“No,” I shake my head. “Remember we said with the verb “to be” (bweet), that he, she or it (ohn, ah-nah, ah-noh) takes another form of the verb?”

It’s as though we have never discussed this before in Pasha’s life. No recognition whatsoever. Utter darkness. The clock slowly ticks nearby. The kitchen table remains our daily torture chamber as his face screws up and I wonder if eating disorders could result from all of the negative associations. At least it’s making me eat more.

“I am smart. You are smart. He ____ smart,” I coax again.

“He smarts!” Pasha tries.

I get the impression that ain’t nobody smarts in these here parts.

“He is smart. She is smart,” I review.

“Oh, okay, Mama.”

He sees the disappointment on my face. At this rate, he should be academically fluent in English by the year 2021, while my own weight may approximate the same number, due to all of the stress.

In that case, I’d better take care of my own mental and physical health. These kids will be needing me when I’m well into my eighties. Best to push myself physically, while pushing him linguistically.

I am smart. He is smart. We can all be smart.

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